girl holding her mouth

Braces And Gingivitis

Posted on December 29, 2018 by Dr. Damon Szymanowski.

Traditional braces are one of the best and most effective tools orthodontists have for straightening smiles and improving oral health, but being a braces patient can come with its own set of challenges. One of the biggest learning curves can be finding and maintaining an effective dental hygiene routine. Everybody knows that brushing and flossing are essential for good oral health, and especially important when you’re undergoing orthodontic treatment. But when you’re wearing braces, you may have difficulty navigating around the brackets, wires, and bands to get your teeth and gums really clean. This can become an issue if you aren’t successfully removing the plaque from your teeth daily, because it can build up into a sticky, invisible film that produces a breeding ground for bacteria. In turn, this bacteria may lead to gingivitis.

Gingivitis is a minor gum disease that is actually surprisingly common. Anyone can develop it, not just those who wear braces, but it can sometimes accompany orthodontic treatment. The good news is, it’s a reversible disease, so there’s no need to wait until you’re finished with treatment to get rid of it! Here at Szymanowski Orthodontics, it’s our goal to give you a smooth and stress-free orthodontic experience. Part of that is supporting your dental health as well as correcting any orthodontic issues. Let’s take a closer look at what exactly gingivitis is, why you’re more prone to it when you’re in braces, and what we can do to help you avoid it!

The main culprit: plaque

Any time you eat something, your braces can push stray food particles into the brackets. While most of this food debris rinses out easily, it can sometimes get caught in the tiny spaces between your gums, teeth, and brackets. When this happens, it can be very difficult to remove the food trapped in these nooks and crannies effectively. Because bacteria live and breed in plaque, any time you get pockets of it like this near the gums, it can cause gingivitis. The resulting inflammation and swelling is essentially your immune system doing its best to keep that harmful bacteria at bay.

If the thought of inflammation worries you, don’t let it! Orthodontics themselves are a form of what we refer to as controlled inflammation. This process helps the gums to become more relaxed, resulting in braces that are better able to guide the teeth into new and improved positions. However, with your gums already inflamed and under stress when you’re in braces, it doesn’t take much for small amounts of bacteria to irritate them even further. This can lead to the immune reaction described above, along with some or all of the following symptoms:

  • red, irritated, or swollen gums
  • minor bleeding after brushing and flossing
  • tenderness in the gums
  • noticeably bad breath
  • loose teeth

If gingivitis isn’t diagnosed and treated in its earlier stages, a more severe form of gum disease called periodontitis can develop. Without treatment, the body will continue in its attempts to fight off the byproducts of bacteria naturally by breaking down the bone and connective tissues that hold the teeth in place. This may cause receding gums to form pockets in between the teeth, leading to possible bleeding, pain, and serious damage over time.

Girl brushing her teeth

Keeping clear of gingivitis while in braces

If you aren’t vigilant about your oral hygiene routine while undergoing orthodontic treatment, it’s easy for inflammation to get out of hand. While daily brushing and flossing daily is usually enough to keep gingivitis at bay, braces can make brushing more difficult, and flossing can be time-consuming and tricky, especially in the early days of treatment. Fortunately, there are a number of products available that are designed to help braces patients keep their teeth and gums healthy!

Interdental brushes

These are thin, round, or cone-shaped brushes with a small head of bristles that are held on by wire. Some may have short or specially-shaped handles that make them easier to grip, while others have long handles similar to regular toothbrushes. Studies have shown that using an interdental brush is one of the best things braces patients can do to remove plaque. That’s because they’re designed to be inserted between the teeth, so they’re able to reach right into the tight spaces where plaque is likely to accumulate. Since they come in several different sizes and styles, you’re guaranteed to find one that fits comfortably and gently in between your teeth.

Mouthwashes

Certain mouthwashes can be an effective form of preventative dental care when added to a regular regimen of brushing and flossing. Some mouthwashes that mask or eliminate unpleasant breath odors use antibacterial ingredients, so they can also be helpful in preventing gingivitis. Pay attention to the ingredients, however. An increasing number of new mouthwashes that focus on freshening breath have chlorine dioxide as their primary ingredient. While this can be effective at neutralizing bacteria that cause bad breath, it can’t do much about the bacteria that cause plaque and gingivitis. You’ll want to look for products that contain the kind of antibacterial ingredients known for killing plaque-causing bacteria, such as thymol, eucalyptol, methyl salicylate, and menthol. When you combine these ingredients with proper brushing and flossing, it can be a big boost in preventing gum disease.

girl with tooth pain

Szymanowski Orthodontics help keep your whole mouth healthy

At Szymanowski Orthodontics, we know what it takes to give you the best orthodontic results. By following our advice and remaining diligent about your oral hygiene, you should be able to spot any potential signs of gingivitis and see us or your general dentist before it gets out of hand. Early action is the best course of action next to be preventative care, so don’t hesitate to contact our team if you have any questions or concerns about your oral health or your treatment process. We’re dedicated to providing you with the best orthodontic experience possible, and are committed to giving you the best chance at a healthy mouth and beautiful smile!